Osteoarthritis Pictures: Overview and More

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent of the more than 100 types of arthritis and related diseases. In the United States, about 27 million people have OA.

It's most common among adults over 65 but people of any age can develop the disease. Prevalence rises significantly after age 50 in males and after age 40 in females. According to the American College of Rheumatology, 70% of people over 70 have X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis.

X-ray pictures of osteoarthritis can show joint cartilage deterioration, compressed spinal discs, bony nodules, and other evidence of joint damage. This article discusses osteoarthritis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. It also provides pictures of osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, hand, and other joints.

Cartilage Damage From Knee Osteoarthritis

Two X-ray radiograph views of male 44 year old knee with severe degenerative osteoarthritic changes

SMC Images / Getty Images

Knee osteoarthritis is the most common type of osteoarthritis. More than 10 million Americans have knee osteoarthritis. It is also the most common cause of disability in the United States.

Deterioration of articular (joint) cartilage is the main problem associated with knee osteoarthritis. The condition can be caused by:

  • Previous knee injury
  • Repetitive strain on the knee
  • Fractures, ligament tears, and meniscal injury, which can affect alignment and promote wear-and-tear
  • Genetics
  • Obesity, which puts extra stress on weight-bearing joints
  • Problems with subchondral bone (the bone layer underneath cartilage)

Hip Osteoarthritis Caused by Joint Deterioration

Man with osteoarthritis

IAN HOOTON / SPL / Getty Images

Hip osteoarthritis is a common type of osteoarthritis. Since the hip is a weight-bearing joint, osteoarthritis can cause significant problems. About one in four Americans can expect to develop symptomatic osteoarthritis of the hip during their lifetime.

Hip osteoarthritis is caused by deterioration of articular (joint) cartilage and wear-and-tear of the hip joint. There are several reasons this can develop:

  • Previous hip injury
  • Previous fracture, which changes the hip alignment
  • Genetics
  • Congenital and developmental hip disease
  • Subchondral bone that is too soft or too hard

Three Common Sites of Hand Osteoarthritis

BURGER/PHANIE / Getty Images

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, including the hand. OA of the hand develops most often at three sites—the base of the thumb, at the joint closest to the fingertip, and the middle joint of the finger.

Mechanical wear-and-tear or injury can cause osteoarthritis to develop. When an injury changes the alignment of a joint, it can speed up cartilage damage. The damage is usually visible in hands with enlarged joints and crooked fingers.

Bony nodules are common visible characteristics of hand osteoarthritis. Small nodules and swelling that develop near the middle joint of the fingers are referred to as Bouchard's nodes. Nodules at the fingertip are called Heberden's nodes.

Age Is Major Risk Factor for Neck Osteoarthritis

Medical consultation
BURGER/PHANIE / Getty Images

Neck osteoarthritis, also known as cervical spondylosis, is chronic degeneration of the vertebrae in the cervical region of the spine and the discs between the vertebrae. Neck osteoarthritis typically affects people over 40 and progressively worsens with age.

The changes caused by a degeneration of the cervical spine region can compress one or more nerve roots. The compression of nerves can cause pain in the neck, as well as pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the arm. Although a past neck injury can lead to neck osteoarthritis years later, aging is the major risk factor or cause of neck osteoarthritis. By age 60, 90% of people will show some cervical degeneration on an X-ray.

What's the Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?


BruceBlaus / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is recognized as the most crippling or disabling type of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (also referred to as a degenerative joint disease) is caused by the breakdown of joint cartilage. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones that form a joint. Cartilage loss can cause bones to rub on bone in a joint, causing considerable pain. Usually, osteoarthritis begins in a single joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory type of arthritis. It is also classified as an autoimmune disease (i.e., immune cells attack the body's own healthy tissues). The synovium (lining of the joint) is primarily affected by rheumatoid arthritis, but organs also can be affected. Multiple joints are usually involved with rheumatoid arthritis.

Knee Replacement Is Last-Resort Treatment Option

Total Knee Replacement prostheis
33karen33 / Getty Images

Typically, arthritis patients first try conservative treatments (medication, injections, braces, physical therapy, heat) to control knee pain and try to slow joint damage. If none of these work alone or in combination, many patients consider knee replacement as their last-resort treatment option.

The knee replacement prosthesis has three components: femoral (metal), tibial (plastic in a metal tray), and patellar (plastic). The prosthesis replaces your damaged knee joint.

Hip Replacement Restores Function and Mobility

Orthopaedic surgeon and nurse with replacement hip stem in operating theatre
Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

Every year in the United States alone, more than 285,000 hip replacements are performed, and the number is expected to double to about 572,000 by the year 2030.

The traditional total hip replacement prosthesis, which replaces the damaged hip joint, has three parts:

  • A plastic cup that replaces the acetabulum (hip socket)
  • A metal ball that replaces the femoral head
  • A metal stem that is attached to the shaft of the femur

There are also ceramic hip replacements and other alternatives to the total hip replacement—for example, the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing System.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can be mistaken for osteoarthritis?

    Osteoarthritis symptoms overlap with several other conditions and may be mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis, gout, Lyme disease, bursitis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, or scleroderma, among others. 

  • What happens if osteoarthritis goes untreated?

    Osteoarthritis typically worsens over time with or without treatment. Physical therapy can help to strengthen muscles that support the joint. This often alleviates symptoms, helps slow the degenerative process, and delays the need for joint replacement.

  • What does knee osteoarthritis feel like?

    Osteoarthritis in the knee causes pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Your knee may often feel stiff first thing in the morning or when you have been sitting for a while. It may also feel wobbly, buckling like it is going to give out, lock up, or feel stuck. 

  • What is the best treatment for severe knee osteoarthritis?

    Intra-articular injections and joint replacement surgery are the recommended treatments for severe osteoarthritis of the knee.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. Harvard Health Publishing. Getting a grip on hand osteoarthritis.

  7. Merck Manual (Professional Version). Osteoarthritis of the hand.

  8. John Hopkins Medicine. Spinal cord compression.

  9. Cleveland Clinic. Could your neck pain actually be neck arthritis?

  10. Arthritis Foundation. Rheumatoid arthritis.

  11. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Arthritis of the knee.

  12. Kurtz S, Ong K, Lau E, et al. Projections of primary and revision hip and knee arthroplasty in the United States from 2005 to 2030. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2007;89(4):780-5. doi:10.2106/JBJS.F.00222

  13. Cleveland Clinic. Osteoarthritis of the knee.

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer who covers arthritis and chronic illness. She is the author of "The Everything Health Guide to Arthritis."